Monday, October 10, 2016

Homeschooling 6th, 3rd, and 1st Grade with a Newborn

Is tiring!

My little guy is 7 weeks old now, and I finally feel like I can breathe again.  The first quarter of this school year has been so crazy.  We started school on August 1, and will just be finishing up the first quarter this week.  We took a couple of weeks off after baby was born, and slowly got back into school mode.  Baby is now sleeping pretty well, waking just once during the night.  Which means that I am now sleeping better, so my mind is more focused during the day.  I also am healing quite nicely from delivery, so I can finally start doing more physical work around the house.

My original plan for the year was to go back to starting our day together with Morning Time, during which I wanted to do our Catholic Schoolhouse work, read alouds, etc.  But it was too stressful trying to get started early enough to get our Morning Time in so that the kids could finish the rest of their work by lunchtime (it's difficult to get them back on track after lunch), along with trying to take care of baby's needs as well.  We also had a problem with the kids rushing through their work.  I felt pulled in so many directions because as I was trying to help one, another would get upset that I wasn't helping them at that second as well, and then of course the baby would choose that minute to start crying.  Then in the afternoons, I'd try to have them do their chores, but many times they were just done with the day and wanted to play.  So last week I thought we'd try something different.

I decided to divide our school morning into three one-hour increments.  My 6th grader starts with chores, then does her individual work, and ends by working with me.  My 3rd grader starts with his individual work, then works with me, and finishes with chores.  My 1st grader starts with me, then does his individual work, and also finishes with chores.  I purposely chose to have the boys do their chores at the same time for two reasons: 1) they share a room, so they can clean it together for one of their chores, and 2) they are both working on schoolwork at the same time, though not in the same room.  I knew that if one was doing chores and one was doing schoolwork, then they'd end up distracting each other.  We've had this schedule for almost a week now, and so far it's working out pretty well.  The house has stayed fairly clean since the kids have an hour to work on chores, and I've been able to have an hour of one-on-one time with each of them each day.  This has allowed me to really focus on reading with my 1st grader and also do some fun learning game activities with the older two.  They seem to like the schedule as well, which means they'll be likely to stick with it.  We don't break for lunch until the three hours are up.  Our lunches have been a little later than normal because we haven't been starting until 9:30-10 most mornings, but I'm ok with that because the work is getting done.  After a lunch and recess break, the kids all gather together to do our Catholic Schoolhouse work, read alouds, etc.  Our school days have been longer than they were in the past, as we sometimes aren't finishing until after 3, but we are getting everything done and the house is usually fairly clean at the end of the day.  So then the kids are free to play and I can get dinner started.

I have realized in our three years of homeschooling that it's important to be flexible.  For now, I'm going to enjoy the schedule as long as it's working.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Birth Story for Baby #4

So today was supposed to be my due date with baby #4.  Instead I have a three-week-old.  I'm very glad that it's now September because August was one emotional roller-coaster ride of a month.

I had several complications during this pregnancy.  I felt fine the whole time, and baby was always great.  But I had high blood pressure at every office visit (though it was always the high end of normal when I checked it at home), was diagnosed with gestational diabetes (though it was diet-controlled and I never had a single high reading when I checked it at home), and found out at 28 weeks that baby was breech.  Due to the gestational diabetes and high blood pressure at the office, starting around July I was in the office weekly for either non stress tests, ultrasounds or regular office visits.

The roller-coaster ride of August began on the 3rd.  I was in for a scheduled appointment and was 35 weeks.  However, my blood pressure was quite elevated at the office, so I did a 24-hour urine test the next day to determine whether I was spilling protein.

I was back in the office the following Monday for a scheduled non stress test.  I was at the office weekly in July, but that led to biweekly in August.  Again, my blood pressure was very elevated at the office.  And my labs were in that showed I was spilling proteins.  So I was diagnosed with preeclampsia and told I'd be delivering baby soon.  How soon was yet to be determined, so my husband and I met with the doctor the next morning to discuss our options.

I was so upset that evening, and I just cried and cried.  I was worried about my health.  Would my blood pressure get so high that I'd have seizures or organ damage?  I was worried about baby's health.  Would his lungs be developed enough?  Would he need to be in the NICU?  I was also mourning the loss of the birth I had envisioned.  I knew that my plan to have an unmedicated birth with little intervention was gone.  At the very least, I'd be induced.  But since baby was still breech (and footling breech, so a vaginal breech delivery was off the table), I was also looking at the possibility of a c-section.  It was a rough night with lots of tears and a rushed trip to the store, since I had yet to pack my hospital bag and pretty much had nothing.

So we met with the doctor on August 9 to discuss delivery: when it would be, how it would go.  She determined that I most likely had mild preeclampsia and could wait to deliver on August 16, when I was 37 weeks, which gave us a week.  I had two shots of steroids before then to help develop baby's lungs.  I felt that I could handle August 16 and just focused on getting through the week. I mentioned earlier that baby was breech, so we decided we would try a version on delivery day to get him to turn.  If it worked, I'd be moved to a labor and delivery room, where I'd be induced and have a vaginal birth.  If it didn't, we had an operating room scheduled for a c-section.

I was back in the doctor's office for my scheduled 36-week appointment two days later, on Thursday.  Not surprisingly, my blood pressure was high again.  So my doctor asked me to come back in an hour or so after lunch to check it again.  My husband had the day off, so he ended up coming back with me.  It was still high, so I was sent to be checked out in triage in the labor/delivery area of the hospital to determine if I could go home or would need to deliver then.  After a couple of very boring hours watching Olympic beach volleyball, my blood pressure lowered enough that I was sent home with directions to do as much bed rest as possible before delivery day the following Tuesday.

I had one more visit at the doctor's office the following Monday for a scheduled non stress test.  Baby was doing great and my blood pressure wasn't too bad for a change.  I was ordered to take it easy that evening and come to the hospital ready to have a baby the following day.

My husband and I arrived at the hospital around 8 am the next morning, where we got set up in a triage room for the version.  The doctor came in at 10 am to try to flip baby.  The stubborn little guy just would not budge.  His little foot was in my pelvis and as much as she tried, the doctor could not get it out so he could turn.  So around 10:30 or so, we decided to go ahead with a c-section.  I was very disappointed that the birth I wanted was gone, and there were some tears.  But I also accepted that I did all that I could to get him to move (along with the version, I had been visiting a chiropractor a couple of times a week), so there must have been a reason that I needed to have the c-section.

I was brought to the operating room around 11:20 am, and we welcomed our little guy at 11:42 am.  He was 5 pounds, 11 ounces and 18 inches long, and just perfect!  NICU doctors were there to check on him, but he was just fine and handed over to my husband to hold while I was getting stitched up.

Having a c-section was quite a different birth experience than I had the previous three times.  I never went into labor.  I basically just laid there while the doctor did all of the work.  My husband didn't have to do much other than watch.  Quite a change from the previous induced birth that I chose to do without pain medication!  But honestly?  It wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be.  My recovery hasn't been too bad, especially compared to my first and third vaginal births.  My abdomen muscles were very sore the first day, and getting in and out of bed took some time.  But I felt pretty good by the next day, and left the hospital after baby's 48 hour test.

My older three adore their younger brother!  They are constantly wanting to hold him and talk to him.  They have been a big help to me as well, especially my daughter.  We're still working on getting into a school routine that works with a newborn, but I'm sure that will come with time.  For now, it's more important to me that we enjoy our time as a new family of six.  I know from experience how quickly kids grow, and I want to make sure to appreciate this time we have now while he's little.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Plans for the 2016-2017 School Year

So if you saw an earlier post, you know that I'm expecting our fourth child in a couple of months.  We've had a busy summer!  We painted all of the kids' rooms, got new carpet installed in them, and everyone also moved rooms.  My boys are now sharing a room so that baby can have his own room.  We got bunk beds for their room and put them together.  We did all of this at the end of June/beginning of July and everyone really likes their new rooms.  The boys are doing really well together, although their room is messier more than I'd like and they sometimes stay up too late talking.  But I just love seeing how much closer they are getting!  The crib and dresser are up in baby's room and his clothes and diapers are washed, but that's about it right now.  

I've been busy planning our next school year and want to get that done before worrying about finishing the baby's room.  We are planning on starting August 1.  Last week we put all of the new schoolbooks in their work boxes, cleaned the classroom, and started gathering school supplies.  I hope to get plans written for the first two weeks by the end of this week.

Last year, we participated in two co-ops: one a gym class along with enrichment classes, and another that covered history, science and literature in a classical learning style.  This year we decided not to do any co-ops.  Both of the ones we did last year begin right when I'm due with the baby.  So we might not have been able to be there for the beginning, not to mention that it would be very hard to have a newborn and plan for any classes I taught.  I also have never home schooled with a newborn; we actually haven't had a newborn in the house in seven years, so I have no idea what to expect!  So we all decided it would be easier to just take a year off and focus on our family.

Since we aren't participating in the classical co-op we did last year, I decided to use Catholic Schoolhouse at home (there are also co-ops for this around the country) for our classical learning.  It covers 24 of our 36 weeks of school, so I have twelve extra weeks of wiggle room that I can use for review or take off and focus on our main curriculum.  I'm planning on getting started with a routine in our Seton work the first couple of weeks of school, and then slowly adding in the Catholic Schoolhouse materials.  I also plan to take a break from it at the end of each quarter so that we can focus on finishing up quarter tests and work with Seton, which is our main curriculum.

We'll cover our Catholic Schoolhouse work, prayers, read alouds, and anything else that we all do together (that seems to be the first to get dropped when we save it for the afternoon) during Morning Time, or Morning Basket.  We did something similar our first year homeschooling and it was always a nice way to start the day together.  I'm not sure why I dropped starting the day together last year, but it was something I regretted the whole year.  My older two especially are very independent with their Seton work, so saving that for after Morning Time shouldn't be a problem, and as long as we start the day on time, they should still be able to get the majority of their schoolwork done by lunch.  That will also give me time to work one-on-one with my youngest, a first grader, who isn't quite independent yet, and still be done with the majority of the heavy learning by lunch.  We all work much better in the morning.  I also know that with a newborn, I'm going to need time to rest in the afternoons, so we'll be implementing a quiet, alone time each afternoon.  I haven't quite decided yet how to do that, but I'm working on it.  I want to add more structure to our days.  We didn't have that much last year, and we all suffered for it.  I want to have routines for school, cleaning, meal planning and even playtime.  I'm looking forward to starting our third year of homeschooling, and once we're a few weeks in, I'll let you know how it's going.

Friday, July 22, 2016

School Year Wrap-Up 2015-2016

I've been busy this summer preparing for baby and our new school year, but I want to take a break to gather my thoughts on our last school year to recall what I enjoyed and what worked for us.

We used more of a year-round schooling approach last year, starting in July and finishing up in May.  We took off most of December, as well as taking a week break after about six weeks of school throughout the year.  We all really enjoyed having breaks throughout the year.  It helped us avoid the burnout we felt around February of the year before.  I am sad that we won't have all of those breaks this school year, since we decided on a traditional school schedule of August through May so that we could have more time in the summer to prepare for baby.  

Last year we participated in a couple of co-ops.  One of our co-ops met in a local church on Monday afternoons, where the kids had 90 minutes of a fun enrichment class and an hour gym class.  The kids were separated into different age groups and had fun classes like art, music, geography, critical thinking, etc divided into trimesters, along with the year-long gym class.  I taught the critical thinking class at my daughter's age level (grades 4-6) during the winter trimester, which I enjoyed.  We also participated in a wonderful Classical Education co-op in the homes of three of the participating families on Wednesday mornings.  In this co-op, the kids had an hour each of ancient history, botany/zoology, and literature, also separated by age.  My boys were in the same classes and I taught their history class, while I also taught my daughter's class for science.  We all learned so much last year!  It was a great introduction into Classical Education and the kids loved all of the activities.  We loved seeing the families in these co-ops each week.  The only drawbacks of these co-ops were that they took a lot of time, especially since we were in two of them.  Two days a week we were gone for over 3-4 hours, which included travel time.  So Monday mornings felt very rushed to try to get our other schoolwork done in time to eat and get to co-op.  Then Wednesdays were rushed to get out of the house on time, and then rushed to eat lunch so that we could get some work done in the afternoons.  It was a lot of work, but it was work that I enjoyed as well.  But being gone for two days also made the days we were home very packed with the rest of our schoolwork.

There are a few things that didn't go so well last year that I'm hoping to change this year.  We started out the year quite well, but then as we got busy with co-ops and sports, and especially when I got pregnant and had an exhaustive first trimester, some things fell by the wayside.  We stopped our Latin studies, we didn't do much art and music, we didn't always make time for our daily rosary, and extra reading gave way to extra playing.  So now as I plan our new school year, I'm planning ways to fit in the things we dropped last year so that it doesn't happen again this year.  

Looking back, our second year homeschooling ended up quite different than how I had planned it to go.  But I also think that's just life.  We are all still happy with our decision to home school, and are all looking forward to another year of it.  And of course, we are also looking forward to adding a new member to our family soon.  So I'm guessing that next year I'll be looking back at how different this coming school year went from what I had planned!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Spring Fun and an Announcement!

It's been quite awhile since I've posted.  Not because we've been sitting around doing nothing, but more because I just haven't had the time or energy.  We've had a lot going on so far this year!  I do have some plans to reflect on our past school year and write about my plans for this coming school year, so keep an eye out for those posts coming soon.

In late February and early March, we spent some time in Florida.  We had a blast at Disney World, seeing lots of characters and riding rides, and had a chance to spend some time with friends who were there at the same time.  Then we spent some time visiting family.

This year, my middle child received his First Holy Communion!  I'm so proud of all the work he put in this year to prepare for his big day.

And finally, the main reason that I've not had the energy to post in awhile...I'm expecting our fourth child, a boy, later this year!  That first trimester wiped me out!  Overall, though, it's really been a wonderful experience so far.  The kids are old enough to understand what's going on this time & they are so excited for another sibling!

Mother's Day 2016
We're over a week into our summer break, and so far we've just spent time relaxing and boxing up last year's books.  This past school year was more of a year round school approach, which worked nicely for us this year.  But next year the kids and I have decided to have a more traditional school year, starting in early August and ending in late April/early May.  

We decided on the traditional school calendar so that we'd have a longer summer to prepare for baby.  We are moving all of the kids into new bedrooms, with the boys sharing a room for the first time.  We also decided that since we'll be moving all of the furniture out of their rooms anyway that we'd go ahead and get new carpeting installed in them.  Our house is around 25 years old and their rooms have the original carpet, so it's definitely time to bring in the new!  We're also going to paint all of the rooms, the boys have a new bunkbed to put together, and we need to decorate a nursery again, so we definitely need every day of summer break we can get!  

I do have some plans in place to keep the kids learning over the longer break.  Hopefully I'll get a chance to post about that soon as well.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Teaching Place Value Using Base Ten Blocks

What feels like a lifetime ago, I taught sixth grade math in an elementary school.  I loved using manipulatives to teach concepts to my class, and acquired many of them throughout my teaching career.  So when my 2nd grader was having difficulty with the concept of hundreds place today, I decided to pull out some of the base ten blocks I have.  Normally these are actual 3-dimensional blocks (affiliate link), but I have a set of flat ones and they work just as well.  

For this lesson, I grabbed a dry erase board and marker, along with the base ten pieces.  I wrote how many hundreds, tens and ones my son needed to count out, and then he wrote out the number.

All of my kids love writing on a dry erase board, so anytime I can pull one out for a lesson, I try to use it.  Manipulatives are also always a welcome addition to any lesson.  My second grader especially is very literal and hands-on, so I knew he'd get a lot out of this lesson, just like using unifix cubes to learn regrouping last year.  He was able to "see" how 10 ones became 1 ten, and then how 10 tens became 1 hundred by using the base ten pieces.

My 2nd grader does not love math (it's probably his least favorite subject), so it made me very happy to hear him tell me that he loved math today & asked to do more!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Enjoying a Long Break

This evening, as I'm preparing to start back up with school tomorrow, I've been thinking about our long break.  Several months ago, I wrote about some changes I made to our homeschool.  One of those changes was switching to a year-round schedule.  

Last year, we ended for our Christmas break the week before Christmas.  I was very stressed the entire month of December, and I didn't feel like I had time to prepare for Christmas.  Since our 2nd quarter ended just before break, I was rushing to grade quarter tests.  We also had out-of-town friends visit us the week after Christmas.  I was exhausted by the time we started school again in January!  It was then that I decided I would definitely take more time off in December in the future.  

So this year we did just that.

Along with changing to a year-round schedule, we also changed our weekly schedule, schooling Thursday through Wednesday instead of the typical Monday through Friday.  I cannot begin to express how much I love doing this!  It's always hard to get back into school mode each Monday after enjoying time off on the weekends, and having the most work added onto that day didn't help!  Starting our heaviest day on Thursdays is so much nicer when Monday rolls around.  So this year, our Christmas break began on December 10.  We did still have our co-ops that next week, so we had a little bit of reading prep work to do for those, but most of our schooling was done.  Having a couple of extra days at the beginning of our break was also nice because I was able to get the classroom cleaned up and grade all of the work from the week.

What did we do with the extra time?  We slept in--my favorite!  We played games, we read, we baked cookies.  We bought and wrapped Christmas gifts.  We watched Christmas movies.  It was so nice!  Then after New Year's?  We continued to enjoy our time off!  We did start our co-ops again this week, so we had to do some of the prep work again, but it was so nice to ease into this week with just the co-op work instead of everything at once since our school week doesn't begin until Thursdays.  I'm really looking forward to starting school again tomorrow!  I feel refreshed and am all ready to go.  The kids were all excited to start school again as they got ready for bed tonight.  

Yep, we are definitely taking a month off at Christmastime every year!